At one point in time, the term “European Improvisation” meant something quite specific, carrying with it an air of otherness to American jazz audiences, solidarity to European jazz audiences, and presented rarified and sometimes unruly music based on folk, classical and open forms. In the ensuing decades, the world has grown a bit smaller, and intercontinental meetings and aesthetic mergers are commonplace, so much so that “European Improvisation” doesn’t quite mean what it once did. Certainly, the history remains and significant figures like pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach, saxophonist Evan Parker, reedman Peter Brotzmann and many others remain quite active on the international performing and recording scene.
Urs Leimgruber and Evan Parker – Twine (CF 194)
Twine presents the duo of Swiss saxophonist Urs Leimgruber and English saxophonist Evan Parker on three improvised pieces for soprano and tenor, and while they’ve worked together previously this is their first recording as an unaccompanied pair. Though by the late 1970s it would seem that the two saxophonists’ work was extraordinarily divergent—Leimgruber’s playing was in the Afro-Near-Eastern free jazz group OM and Parker was firmly entrenched in non- idiomatic improvisation—yet both find a leaping-off point in John Coltrane and thus Twine is a place where conversation can begin and be expanded upon.
The title track, at 25 minutes, finds both players on tenor and while there is divergence in their respective sounds, the husky pilings of phrase and long lines of Parker meeting Leimgruber’s flintier charge perfectly complement one another. The recording doesn’t separate them strictly by channel, thankfully, allowing their sounds and phrases to merge and part with a demarked room-like sensibility and a natural unity.
At the disc’s start, Parker unfurls laconic phrases, eddying in tendrils that gradually shorten their spatial plane into condensed, crisp chordal pilings in response to the sharp staccato digs of Leimgruber’s shorter-distance runner. Thick, gritty honks are ornamented by wistful upturns and circular-breathed lines until both sputter in excitable dialogue, each elaborating on the other’s interpretation of vocabulary. Parker and Leimgruber are probably both better known as soprano saxophonists, merging the possibilities of a higher-pitched straight horn tonality and the depth of parsed chords with a bio-acoustical sensibility.
“Twirl” finds the pair wheeling in the wind, creaking and building a series of calls into whittling repetition, Leimgruber’s micro-view seemingly chipping away at a larger whole, while Parker more slowly and with significant detail encircles an already open expanse. It’s interesting to hear Parker past the point of revision—not to say he’s “comfortable,” but in this context he puts forth, quite simply, who he is and what he does, a la Ben Webster or Sidney Bechet. Complemented and abetted by Leimgruber’s methodical ornament, Twine is a beautiful disc.